As the MLB season has come to an end so has your local fall recreation slow pitch softball league. Why compare these two games? Compared to trying to hit a 100 mph fastball with movement, trying to hit a lobbed ball twice the size is easy. Baseball is for athletes who stay in top physical shape minus a couple exceptions (yes that means you Bartolo) whereas in your bar league softball you see overweight middle age adults who talk about the days they were a stud on their high school teams. In general, these two sports are incredibly different. However, over the course of the past couple months I have noticed some ways in which they compare quite well and where softball was in fact paving the way for MLB.
This big ball is being lobbed. Here’s an idea: just hit a dinger. Yes go all Big Al and hit a dinger! If only it was that easy. It is easy to watch and say that but it is more difficult that it looks. If it were the case there would be no end to games. In case your not paying attention to former Royals DH/1B Billy Butler (why wouldn’t you??) he is playing beer league softball in Idaho and he hits home runs on command as one would expect. The league therefore created a rule that restricted him to hit only 1 home run per game. Now clearly in order to hit dingers you need to have that uppercut swing to match the angle at which the pitch is coming in. Thus, the more lobbed the pitch is, the more difficult hitting a dinger actually becomes. A shallower pitch becomes easier to hit out. Softball has been playing the launch angle game for as long as the game has been around. Get the ball in the air and hope to get enough bat to knock it out. If it doesn’t quite get over the fence thats not a problem either because Jerry out there in left field was too busy finishing his Miller Light that he couldn’t get to the ball.
Directional Hitting/ Shifts
As we have seen in the MLB, big power hitters get the most power when the pull the ball. It’s only natural in softball that when the ball is coming in so slow to pull the ball out. That being said pulling a shift in softball is highly encouraged. The optimal field position would look like the following:
On the other hand, the more skilled hitters will be able to direct their hits to the other side of the field. If you have your weakest fielder out there it could result in an easy inside the park dinger. Not optimal. Therefore, to combat this there still needs to be a capable fielder in right field.
Getting on Base:
In slow pitch softball it is hard to consistently throw strikes believe it or not. You have to consistently drop the ball in a 17”x34” rectangle. In addition you are not to throw the pitch so that the peak of it is above 12 feet above ground. Many times you can simply stand up there and, in a not super competitive league, you could walk 60% of the time. Now the problem is that its not fun. In beer league softball you would rather hit dingers than take walks.
From someone who has played competitive baseball through high school, I felt coming into a softball league should be a piece of cake. I was humbled pretty quickly because nothing is more frustrating than taking a big hack and whiffing or ticking the ball. For guys the rule is one foul ball or miss and you’re out. Hitting the ball spot on is not easy at all. Stay tuned for part 2!